Trade Secrets: Why Strong Consultants Use Status Reports

Trade Secrets: Why Strong Consultants Use Status Reports

Do you want to be a rock star consultant? Do you want recruiters and Relationship Managers burning up your phone with great contract opportunities? The best way to make that a reality is to always make the client happy.

While that may seem simple enough, it is a skill that many consultants struggle to master. One of the most essential and painless things you can do to make your clients happy is to send them weekly status reports.

My Story: A Lesson Learned

I have worked in learning and development (L&D) for 31 years. In my nine years as a corporate employee, I worked with consultants occasionally. At that time, consultants were almost always in the office while working. Communicating with a consultant about their progress, hold-ups, and other aspects of their projects was easy.

Toward the end of the 1990s, consultants started reducing the number of days in the office and completing work from home. That’s when it became critical to send a Weekly Status Report.

I started my own consulting journey in the year 2000. (Yes, more than 2 decades ago!) I would only accept contracts with a few days in the office, and I did most of my design and development work at home.

On my first project, I learned the necessity of sending in my status report. Here’s my story:

I verbally updated the project manager (another consultant) on my status. I was in a holding pattern, waiting for the subject matter expert (SME) to tell me the screen I designing training for was finalized.

Until the screen was ready, I wasn’t billing hours and just checking with the SME daily. I thought I was doing the right thing for the client. Then, the staffing agency called me out of nowhere and told me the client was unhappy because I wasn’t turning in any work!

I saved the contract through a monumental work effort, working in the office more frequently and giving written status updates to the client. From then on,  I provided status reports every Friday on all my consulting projects – and you should, too.

However, don’t take my word for it. Here are a few quotes and stories about the value of status reports shared with me by consultants, clients, and recruiters:

Kelley Kalbas: Status Reports Are “Nice to Have”

I ask all the consultants I place to do regular status reports. It’s nice to have them so the client can use them for reference when asked why a project is taking so long or how long you’ve been waiting for feedback requested from SMEs.

It’s just good documentation to have. That way, potential issues never come down to trying to piece together why a project is in a situation where a client says they “didn’t know.” Fortunately, hardly any of our projects get into that kind of situation!

A regular status report from a consultant to the client can be very valuable. Susan Sheehan, TrainingPros Relationship Manager

So, on the positive side, it is “nice to have” a busy client to scan each week for open issues and to know things are on track without having to schedule time with the consultant for an update.

A graduate of Florida State University, Kelley Kalbas has over 20 years of experience in change management, instructional design, project management, and consulting. She is currently a Relationship Manager for TrainingPros.

Lori Fancher Status Reports Help Meet Expectations

A new TrainingPros consultant was placed with a TrainingPros client. Although expectations were set at the project’s start, little was discussed about reporting progress using a status report.

Two weeks into the project, the consultant was reassigned to a new manager who was new to the role and less experienced in L&D. The new client manager didn’t understand the instructional design (ID) development process.

That led to them questioning how the consultant spent their time contributing to the project. As a result, the client became increasingly concerned and considered terminating the contract.

To resolve this, a weekly status report was suggested by both me and the client, using a template they provided which included:

  • Time spent
  • Tasks
  • Intended deliverables
  • Percent Complete

After the last check-in, the client was thrilled with the consultant’s work, and the new manager gained valuable experience. Consultants aim to leave clients in a better state than before, and status reports help meet expectations and ensure continued success long after their departure.

A former client of TrainingPros, Lori Fancher has first-hand experience working with top-notch talent from a trusted brand. She is now a TrainingPros Relationship Manager who helps her clients find the right resources for their projects. Lori has over 25 years of experience as a consultant and learning leader.

Leigh Hurst: Status Reports Keep Things on Track

I have several clients that work with TrainingPros for custom eLearning development projects. Our project manager for these projects holds weekly status meetings.

Many times, these meetings are very brief but serve to have a scheduled check-in time to discuss any updates related to the project. Clients have repeatedly shared with me how much they appreciate these recurring meetings.

It’s an opportunity to ensure all project team members are on the same page and that any project issues can be handled promptly to keep things on track.

Leigh Hurst is a TrainingPros Relationship Manager and founder of the Feel Your Boobies Foundation. She is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of design experience and a deep expertise in eLearning. Leigh holds Masters degrees from Florida State University and Northwestern University.

Patrick Owens: Status Reports Cover Your Backside

The only thing more rewarding than working for yourself is to be successful doing it. I’ve spent the last 20 years as a consultant working on learning and development projects for clients all over the world. While I consider myself very successful at it, that does not mean there haven’t been some hard lessons learned along the way.

I can say with the utmost certainty there is nothing more beneficial than regularly communicating your status to your clients. When I was in the Air Force, we called it CYA…which was a polite way of saying ‘cover your backside.’

Every manager is different, but all of them, without exception, will need to know how you’re progressing at some point because they have someone they answer to as well.

Regular status updates from the consultants help me feel comfortable knowing the project is on track. Those communications both reduce my stress and build confidence that I can trust the consultant. I think that helps improve our working relationship. Carey Garback, TrainingPros Client

Two years into my consulting career, I landed a significant contract for a government agency. It was a high-profile project that paid well. The manager I was assigned was laid back and nonchalant about things.

On the first day, he told me not to worry about keeping him updated on my progress because he would ask me if he ever needed to know anything.

I did just that – I put my head down and focused on the assigned tasks with little care about the order I worked on things or when I finished them. The story’s moral is this — everyone has a boss, and inevitably, that boss will want to know the status of your work.

Similar to my situation, they might want to know how long it took to finish a specific task or, better yet, when you finished the work. When that happens, that really cool, laid-back manager will have zero problems throwing you, a consultant, under the bus.

Save your backside and send status reports!

Patrick Owens is an Air Force veteran who has spent the last 20 years working as an independent consultant in the L&D industry. He has worked for some of the largest brands in the world, including Coca-Cola, Adobe Systems, Frito-Lay, Microsoft, Bank of America, Walmart, and American Express. He is currently the Director of Digital Communications for TrainingPros.

Carole Meade: Status Reports Make Your Life Easier

The consultants working with my client send regular status reports on their progress toward each project. The clients find these reports critical to keeping the projects and budgets on track.

If you’re not convinced that a weekly status report will make your life easier, just try it! Try sending a weekly status report to all your clients, even projects on temporary hold.

With over 20 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies as a Learning Services Professional, Carole Meade is a TrainingPros Relationship Manager specializing in Avaya Training Services.

Final Thoughts

These are just some of the stories I have heard through the years. The names and clients are different, but the lessons remain the same – strong, successful consultants always use status reports to keep their clients happy.

Leave no doubt, make it a habit, and document what you work on daily. Also, take note of any delays or roadblocks that slow or impede your progress. Don’t dismiss them or decide to work on something else while you wait. Include them in your status report.

So, what are you waiting for? Get that status report done. You’ll be thankful you did.

Are you in the habit of submitting weekly status reports to your clients? What information do you include in your status reports? Share your thoughts and questions with me on LinkedIn or Twitter!

Picture of Leighanne Lankford

Leighanne Lankford

Leighanne Lankford lives life outside of the lines. From walking on fire to rappelling down buildings, she lives by the mantra, "playing it safe isn’t good enough." In her 30 years as a Learning and Development practitioner, thought-leader, and now business owner, Leighanne has always pushed boundaries and done things her way.
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Leighanne Lankford lives life outside of the lines. From walking on fire to rappelling down buildings, she lives by the mantra, “playing it safe isn’t good enough.” In her 30 years as a Learning and Development practitioner, thought-leader, and now business owner, Leighanne has always pushed boundaries and done things her way.

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